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New York's Golden Age of Bridges

New York's Golden Age of Bridges

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New York's Golden Age of Bridges

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Lançado em:
Jan 1, 2013


In New York’s Golden Age of Bridges, artist Antonio Masi teams up with writer and New York City historian
Joan Marans Dim to offer a multidimensional exploration of New York City’s nine major bridges, their artistic and
cultural underpinnings, and their impact worldwide.

The tale of New York City’s bridges begins in 1883, when the Brooklyn Bridge rose majestically over the East River, signaling the start of America’s “Golden Age” of bridge building. The Williamsburg followed in 1903, the Queensboro (renamed the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge) and the Manhattan in 1909, the George Washington in 1931, the Triborough (renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge) in 1936, the Bronx-Whitestone in 1939, the Throgs Neck in 1961, and the Verrazano-Narrows in 1964. Each of these classic bridges has its own story, and the book’s paintings show the majesty and artistry, while the essays fill in the fascinating details of
its social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental history.

America’s great bridges, built almost entirely by immigrant engineers, architects, and laborers, have come to symbolize not only labor and ingenuity but also bravery and sacrifice. The building of each bridge took a human toll. The Brooklyn Bridge’s designer and chief engineer, John A. Roebling, himself died in the service of bridge building. But beyond those stories is another narrative—one that encompasses the dreams and ambitions of a city, and eventually a nation.

At this moment in Asia and Europe many modern, largescale, long-span suspension bridges are being built. They are the progeny of New York City’s Golden Age bridges. This book comes along at the perfect moment to place these great public projects into their historical and artistic contexts and to inform and delight artists, engineers, historians, architects, and city planners. In addition to the historical and artistic perspectives,
New York’s Golden Age of Bridges explores the inestimable connections that bridges foster, and reveals the extraordinary impact of the nine Golden Age bridges on the city, the nation, and the world.

Lançado em:
Jan 1, 2013

Sobre o autor

Antonio Masi is a world-class and award-winning artist often honored for his depictions of bridges; his magnificent paintings are exclusively featured in the book New York’s Golden Age of Bridges. Masi is also president of the American Watercolor Society. His artistry has been featured in Artist’s Magazine, PBS–Sunday Arts, NBCToday, Newsday, and many other venues. He also participated in the New York Times’s video City Living: A Tale of Two Bridges. A sought-after artistic master and scholar, he travels the world as a teacher, demonstrator, and lecturer.

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New York's Golden Age of Bridges - Antonio Masi







Frontispiece: Cables—Manhattan Bridge (40 × 60)

Copyright © 2012 Fordham University Press

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Fordham University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Fordham University Press also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Masi, Antonio.

New York’s golden age of bridges / paintings by Antonio Masi;

essays by Joan Marans Dim.—1st ed.

  p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-8232-4065-4 (cloth : alk. paper)

1. Masi, Antonio—Themes, motives. 2. Bridges in art.

3. Bridges—New York (State)—New York. I. Dim, Joan Marans.

II. Title.

ND237.M2555A4 2012



Printed in China

14 13 12   5 4 3 2 1

First edition

For my wife, Elizabeth Jorg Masi

— A.M.

For my husband, Stuart Dim

— J.M.D.


Foreword by Harold Holzer


The Brooklyn Bridge (May 24, 1883)

The Williamsburg Bridge (December 19, 1903)

The Queensboro Bridge (March 30, 1909)

The Manhattan Bridge (December 31, 1909)

The George Washington Bridge (October 25, 1931)

The Triborough Bridge (July 11, 1936)

The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge (April 29, 1939)

The Throgs Neck Bridge (January 11, 1961)

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (November 21, 1964)

Selected Bibliography



Williamsburg Bridge—Zag (60 × 28)


Harold Holzer

In 2007, a group of history- and civic-minded New Yorkers banded together under the leadership of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to plan a unique commemoration: the approaching centennial birthdays of not one but several of the city’s extraordinary bridges.

Three years later, the group had issued medals honoring the Queensboro Bridge and some of its smaller, less renowned though equally well-traveled Harlem River spans and hosted public events calling attention to their importance. Admittedly, the centennials made no headlines. But if they managed to educate even a small number of students about the crucial, history-altering significance of these engineering marvels, then they succeeded admirably. I was proud to play a small role in the planning and execution of these events, along with friends like traffic expert extraordinaire Sam Schwartz, Borough President’s office veteran Maggi Peyton, planning board leaders Barry and Judith Schneider, and many others.

Bridges are perhaps the most overlooked of the human-made, landscape-altering masterpieces of the New York cityscape. Skyscrapers earn architectural awards—and, in their absence, mass mourning. Old buildings provoke civic love and landmark status. Even subways evoke more interest: New York has a subway museum for those eager to recall the charms of the hot, noisy, malodorous vehicles of the past. But even the most majestic bridges merely exist—they function—and typical New Yorkers want nothing less than to linger over their beauty or dwell on their staying power. They want merely to cross them—to get from one side to the other—as quickly as possible, without delay, without sentimentality, and, heaven knows, without traffic. They are not the stuff dreams are made of; rather, at their best, they conduct us from one dream to the next.

Perhaps the best way to rekindle the awe they once inspired is to imagine a five-borough city without them. It is nearly impossible: something out of a science fiction movie. But consider that only a few years before Manhattan joined Brooklyn to form a greater New York in 1898, even the Brooklyn Bridge did not yet exist. When Abraham Lincoln arrived here in February 1860 to deliver his career-altering Cooper Union address and felt obliged as well to visit and worship at the Plymouth Church across the river in Brooklyn Heights, the only transport available to him was the slow-moving, wind-whipped Fulton Street ferry. At least the voyage was more agreeable than the one that brought him across the Hudson to Manhattan: On that ferry, he shared space with horses and other livestock. Such were the limits of civic routine even at the dawn of the Civil War.

By the pre–World War II era, bridge openings had become big news. Construction of the George Washington Bridge included a contest to name it. The Triborough Bridge’s grand opening attracted no less a personage than President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even as it approached old age, the Queensboro Bridge inspired Simon & Garfunkel to compose an unforgettable tribute song. I myself remember journeying to rather rural Whitestone in the 1960s to watch in wonder as workers built the foundations for the Throgs Neck. And in the twenty-first century, as much as these relics might be taken for granted, the renaming of the Triborough in memory of the late Robert F. Kennedy and, more recently, of the Queensboro in honor of former Mayor Edward I. Koch caused enough anxiety and disputation to draw sudden and earnest attention to engineering marvels that had long eluded serious notice.

Build them and we exult. Open them and we cross them daily with hardly a thought about their virtuoso construction. But alter even the names with which we have known them all our lives and the suppressed love and sudden indignation pour forth like an open wound. Hard-hearted New York adores its old bridges, after all.

Those who feel the love will find no better valentine than this book. It explores the planning, building, and opening of all of New York’s extraordinary spans, and it does so in an accessible, appealing way. And it captures their breathtaking beauty and individuality with artistic portrayals that dazzle the eye. But the result is more than a coffee table book: It is a serious history of the way our forebears struggled to link this big, disparate, water-suffused city against the forces of nature, science, and nay-sayers, with daring, futuristic vision, consummate determination, architectural innovation, and high style.

It will be hard to cross a treasured New York City bridge with indifference again.

The bridges of New York City are in my DNA.—Antonio Masi


In 1883, John Augustus Roebling’s Brooklyn Bridge rose majestically over the roiling currents of the East River, connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan. The bridge, hailed as the new eighth wonder of the world, signaled the start of the Golden Age of American bridge building and a time of immense hope, ambition, and invention.

The bridges that followed would be the Williamsburg in 1903, the Queensboro (renamed the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in 2011) and the Manhattan in 1909, the George Washington in 1931, the Triborough in 1936 (renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge in 2008), the Bronx-Whitestone in 1939, the Throgs Neck in 1961, and the Verrazano-Narrows in 1964. As a result of this extraordinary undertaking, America would be for almost one hundred years the center for building large-scale, long-span suspension bridges.

America’s great bridges, built almost entirely by immigrant engineers, architects, and laborers, have come to symbolize not only labor and ingenuity but also bravery and sacrifice. Each bridge took a human toll. Roebling himself died in the service of bridge building. But beyond those stories is another narrative—one that encompasses the dreams and ambitions of a city, and eventually a nation.

At the turn of the twentieth century, traveling across the deep and wide harbors of the East and Hudson rivers was at best difficult. Ferries were overcrowded, undependable, and, in inclement weather, sometimes dangerous. The ferries could not handle the multitudes who wanted to cross the city’s rivers—only bridges had that capacity.

As each bridge opened and as the outer boroughs and the state of New Jersey were linked, residential and industrial development boomed, and the social, cultural, political, and economic growth of the metropolis blossomed. The new bridges also spurred the creation of a sprawling highway system that further expanded travel, commerce, and urbanization. Across the nation, engineers, politicians, city planners, and business-people took note and action.

Soon the result of this great bridge building in New York City led to the rise of similar structures across the nation. Commerce expanded. Cities and states were connected. Insular burgs turned into thriving megalopolises. New highways crisscrossed the country, and the automobile, replacing the horse and buggy, quickly became king of the road. The populace now had a freedom of movement that had heretofore been unknown. Eventually, word of the Golden Age bridges and their significance would spread around the world—especially to Europe and Asia. The fact is, New York’s bridges transformed the way people live and work in New York City and set the example for the nation and even for the world.

Today, New York’s Golden Age bridges still stand. As iconic as ever! As utilitarian as ever! As long as these bridges stand, the story of who we are, where we came from, and what we have accomplished also stands.

For Antonio Masi, whose paintings grace

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